Until yesterday, I had never heard of SMILE. Never. Not in a million years. Hell, I didn’t even know what they were named after. What the fuck is a smile? Is that some kind of dinosaur? It seems to be the kind of concept corrupted with positive vibes. It gives me shivers down my Scrooge-like spine just thinking about that. Smile…huh, what a lame name. With more than an inkling of cynicism permeating my close-minded brain, I clicked the little orange play button on that totally mainstream Internet thing called Soundcloud. My permanently smudged scowl was already prepared for disappointment.
The first track, ‘Still Waiting for My Man’ disappointed me greatly. It disappointed me that it did not disappoint me, but rather the opposite. It was fucking amazing (haha, tricked you, what a prankster art thee!). The ‘ba-ba-bum’s’ and lingering, fishing line guitar recalled the shit out of The Go-Betweens in the best way possible. But SMILE go past being some sort of shitty tribute act, chucking in some of that updated modern slacker-pop spirit that the Go-Betweens didn’t know about back in the day. The constant motif of Sebastian is just a damn cool little hook, and it’ll put a wry little non-frown on your face, no matter what kind of shit the world threw your way today. The washing machine sounds at the end are fucking mint as well.
The rest of the album is a fairly engaging and laid-back affair. There’s memories to be made on ‘Life Choices’, but they’ll be made at their own pace. If there was ever an embodiment of that spirit, it comes out clear and loud in the third track ‘Pascoe Vale’ and album closer ‘Luxury Joint’. Whilst there are tastier tracks on the album (how could you go past ‘Stoned (Get These Fucking Flies Off My Fucking Face/Shut Up And Take My Money’, that thing’s gorgeous), these two songs are true reflections of what makes a great band great. Allow me to elaborate…
‘Pascoe Vale’ is simply stunning. It starts ultra dream-pop, not in a glittery Portland way, but with true Aussie grit. Now that’s how you make a fucking statement. You take a genre, tear out its insides and transform it into a pelt that you can take with you on your six month pilgrimage of Mount Kosciuszko (apparently that’s a big mountain or some shit). The sun-dried vocals should be all logic bore the listener with their dusty delivery, but instead they are enticing as fuck, glorious to the point of mind-boggling and undeniably unique. ‘Pascoe Vale’ builds and builds in its own subtle way until its cascading into a fully layered destination of existential welcoming. Although that all sounds like total bullshit, just take a listen and see if you don’t feel at least a little weird and tangled up after that guitar solo.
‘Luxury Joint’ shows a completely different side to the band, but one just as excellent. This song is a drawn out, pained affair, the music oozing an understood sadness. This is the kind of sadness displays regret for previous fuck ups, but managed to face the harshest of consequences all the same. ‘Luxury Joint’ is the kind of song that you want to, need to, absolutely must play when you’ve fucked up beyond repair. It’s beautiful in an open and honest way, and that is something you really don’t hear everyday.
I’m not going to pretend that I understand how SMILE work, how they make the sounds that they do. I’m not a musician. I failed my 4th Grade cello exam for fuck’s sake. But I do know that SMILE are an amazing band, as precious a find to the adolescent and young ‘un as Belle and Sebastian. I’m actually feel fortunate that this band got in contact with me. All I can say is that this album is as integral to your collection as ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
You can grab the album digitally or on vinyl (buy the vinyl) at Bandcamp right here. The album came out today, which is incredibly conveniant. The band are playing 26th October at Brighton Up Bar. Go to that show or face my wrath!